Les Voiles des St Tropez 2015 – ‘Azure’

06/10/2015

There are certainly worse places to be when racing is abandoned....
 
Once again Patrick and Hilary Kelly generously invited young members, Monty and Sonny Mallet, and a not so young member Iain Macdonald-Smith, to race in the historic Les Voiles de St Tropez on their stunning Tofinou 9.5 ‘Azure’.
 
After two days of training in very little wind, the first day of racing at the Voiles is a lay day for the classic fleet, in which the Tofinou 9.5 was put in the Marconi Modern Classics category. This gave the team, including shore support from Katie Griffiths and Alexandra Montgomery, a day in St Tropez admiring the stunning super yachts, and classics such as ‘Moonbeam’ and ‘Ranger’, as well as sampling numerous bottles in many fine restaurants. As ever, when boats and drinking are involved you are always going to be within a few metres of a RTYC member, and we had pleasure of having a quick drink with Andrew Sutherland and his wonderfully amusing gang, who were ‘prepping’ for his trip to San Francisco for the Cornerstone Cup the next day. This pattern continued and by the evening we were invited to the famous La Ponche hotel by the equally famous owner of ‘Jap,’ and ex-boxer David Sheriff, who was incredibly generous to the young members with numerous bottles of champagne and stories of his times racing in St Tropez over the years.
 
That night the winds got up, and by the morning it was blowing a steady 25ktsin the Gulf, and by 11.00 all racing was abandoned, giving shore support control of the day and the male members of the crew were dragged to Cannes for a day’s shopping.... Sadly the winds increased further, and by Wednesday morning Team ‘Azure’ were given an update by fellow young members, Alex Pollock and Penny Hooper, that it was blowing almost 40kts in the shelter of Port Grimaud, which must have meant it was 50+kts out in the open. A day of exploring local vineyards ensued to counter the disappointment of not racing; Chateau Minuty is highly recommended if you’re in the area!
Abandonment Wine Tasting
Abandonment Wine Tasting

French race committees are unable to deviate from the programme, and our Thursday lay day continued to be a lay day, possibly due to Club 55 having major influence on the event (the owner was one of the founders of the event) and wanting the last custom of the season, which I heard RC Tony Hanna and crew spent a good afternoon at. Another day was had of vineyards, restaurants and some surfing on La Nartelle beach to keep the sailors amused.
 
By Friday cabin fever was setting in and thankfully the winds had subsided and although it was torrential rain the race committee set a short triangular course with a reaching start. One minute before the start, as Patrick and Iain lined us up to be on the line as the gun went, the vang block blew and Monty quickly rigged a jury vang. This cost a bit of time, and fellow Tofinou 9.5s ‘Pitch’ and RTYC member Ted Fort OBE in ‘Pippa’ stormed ahead using either their asymmetric or Code 0. ‘Azure’ stayed high for the first quarter of the leg, and then pulled the asymmetric up keeping up with the larger Tofinou 12s and faster Code 0 boats. The rain continued to pour, making the conditions tougher for the now damp and cold crew, and ‘Azure’ held their position fighting off the bigger yachts. Race one saw ‘Pitch’ come in first with a corrected time of 2:05:58, Ted Fort in ‘Pippa’ in second at 2:07:26 and ‘Azure’ in 3rd at 2:11:10 and the larger yachts coming in behind the Tofinou 9.5s.

 
Fifes Racing
Fifes Racing

The second and now final race saw a steady 18kts blowing, and a medium sized swell; the wind had now swung and it was a beat out of the Gulf. Again, as ‘Azure’ lined up for the start the new vang block blew and a jury vang was once again rigged. Even with this problem Patrick got the best start in the fleet and clear breeze as we headed up the first beat. The wind steadily increased to 25kts and the first and second leg were a hard slog lasting almost and hour and a half as positions changed regularly between the four Tofinous at the top of the fleet. Once round the second mark it was a tight reach down to La Nartelle, half way down the leg ‘Azure’ decided it was safe to put the asymmetric up. After an enormous increase in boat speed and two broaches, which Patrick brought the boat out of calmly and efficiently, in hindsight we should have stuck with just the jib. However, it had given us some breathing space between ‘Pippa’ who was our closest competition on points, and once round the mark we had a safer and shyer downwind leg round the rocks and to the finish. ‘Pitch’ had another successful race coming in second to a Code 1, with Tofinou 9.5 ‘Sandy Bay’ achieving forth and ‘Azure’ coming in fifth. Overall ‘Pitch’ had a solid first place with 3 points, with Patrick Kelly, Iain Macdonald-Smith, Sonny Mallet and Monty on the good ship ‘Azure’ coming in second with 8 points, with a Code 1 just behind with 9 points.
 
Many thanks to Patrick and Hilary for a superb week in the South of France, and in the end some superb and tough racing with a very respectable results.

 
Prizegiving
Prizegiving